My fundamental purpose for teaching is to create learning opportunities for my students. As a teacher, my goal is not simply to disseminate knowledge to students. Rather, I strive to engage students in the learning process so that they will take on an active role in their education. I believe that this is the only way for them to achieve their full academic potential, so my role as a teacher is to unlock their desire to expand their education. This is consistent with the philosophy of the founder and first president of Temple University, Russell Conwell, who made the argument that there are endless opportunities in our own backyards. For me, the purpose of teaching is to open the eyes of my students to those opportunities so that they can take full advantage of all they have to offer.
In my opinion, learning is about more than the memorization of facts and figures. When students seize the opportunity to learn, they open themselves up to self-improvement and self-actualization. These ideas are consistent with the Humanistic Theory of Learning, which suggests that learning can help students make the most of their human potential. When students are forced to overcome obstacles, they have the chance to learn more about themselves and their abilities to cope with difficulties. As an experienced nurse myself, I know that my students will constantly face setbacks. By challenging them in the classroom, I can help them develop the resiliency and maturity they will need to be in order to become successful nurses. One way I will do this is by including discussion groups in the curriculum. For instance, in a mental health class about self-image, I could include a discussion about a firsthand account of an adolescent’s experience with an eating disorder, which can be a challenging topic for students to talk about. In a relaxed environment, I would encourage students to engage in discussion groups, to articulate their ideas, and they may have their opinions questioned by other students. This type of challenging experience can help students achieve self-improvement.
As a teacher, I have to acknowledge that I will not be able to teach them everything they need to know for their careers. Rather, I can only provide them with a foundation. As biomedical research advances at an unprecedented pace, the aspiring nurses I teach will inevitably be faced with new technologies and innovations that I cannot predict. Therefore, my goal is to provide an education that helps students build the critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills they need to adapt to the constant changes in the healthcare field. In the classroom, I will challenge students to read and discuss recently published papers. For example, in an introductory mental health class, I could include a recent journal article on genetic and environmental factors underpinning the manifestations of schizophrenia. Then, I could ask the students to make a determination about the quality of journal article. This is important to the learning process because it trains students to think critically about all of the studies they encounter.
In addition, I will challenge students to seek out research studies in medical databases. As a teacher, I could simply hand them the peer-reviewed papers that I believe are reliable and relevant, but when they leave my classroom, they will no longer have someone to do this for them. As a result, they may end up falling behind on the latest research in the field or falling for false claims that are not supported by sound evidence. For this reason, I consider it essential to teach aspiring nurses to search the literature and critically analyze the studies they find. In my classroom, they will do this through regular journal discussion groups, as well as formal writing assignments in which they will be required to reference the scholarly literature. This will give them the skills they need to effectively use information from nursing research databases to support their practice in the future.
Another teaching strategy that I believe is important is to encourage students to apply their knowledge to the real world. For instance, I want to expose them to clinical scenarios and simulations as early as possible. Through discussions in the classroom and in online forums, students can start to determine how what they learned in class can relate to the rest of the world. For instance, with an online simulation lab, I could provide students in a mental health class with more realistic experience in simulated practical settings. My teaching strategy also focuses on engagement with the community. I recognize that nursing is not a practice that exists in isolation, and this is an idea that I want to communicate to my students. To do so, I encourage students to look at how politics affects nursing and to get involved in political advocacy that will directly or indirectly affect their practice in the future. Even as students, I believe that aspiring nurses need to understand the context in which they work and actively engage in the broader community.
The way that I approach teaching has been shaped by my upbringing and the environment in which I have worked as a nurse. I grew up in an urban environment where I was exposed to lots of different people. At an early age, I had a front-row seat to the social, economic, and educational disparities that shape people’s lives today. Currently, I work in an urban university hospital, where I continue to work with a highly diverse population. As a result, I approach teaching from the perspective that all students have different backgrounds and learn in different ways. Even if it means working overtime, there is nothing I find more gratifying than getting the student to that “a-ha” moment where they truly understand a new concept.
Overall, my teaching philosophy is characterized by openness, innovation, and an acknowledgement of the agency of students in the learning process. By directing students to essential nursing resources and supporting their active engagement, I can help them achieve self-actualization and prepare for successful careers in today’s ever-changing field of nursing.
- Meizlish, D. & Kaplan, M. (2008). Valuing and evaluating teaching in academic hiring: A multidisciplinary, cross-institutional study. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 489-512.
- Seldin, P. (2004). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions (3rd ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.